Robert Liddell produced during his lifetime a distinguished list of novels and critical works. With the recent reissue of his Oxford novels, his reputation has risen to place him in the front rank of twentieth-century English writers.
The Deep End is a poignant evocation of childhood comparable to L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between. Lurking beneath the innocence and propriety of a boys' preparatory school is a malevolence that culminates in horrific deeds.
Harry Staples is terrified of water. A timid, introverted child, he invites torment from the other boys and the tyranny of the headmaster, who forces him to swim. But the Revd Dudley Knight is without fear. He schemes to supplant the old-fashioned headmaster, hoping to impose upon the school his own unwholesomely hearty ethos.
This masterly tale of victims and oppressors reaches its climax at the dead of night, and ends with the triumph of evil. Liddell's writing is always controlled and precise, yet here it shimmers with undertones of sexuality, and is touched with humour and compassion.